Planning a deck begins with imagining everything you want the space to be. Use these expert tips to inspire your own deck design and bring your backyard to life.

January 12, 2016

Define Goals


Today's decks are no longer basic rectangles attached to the back of the house. Rather, they integrate seamlessly with the house, landscape, and yard. Many factors will influence the design of your deck, such as the architectural style of your house, contours of your property, restrictions imposed by setbacks and codes, and location of major landscaping features.

Before settling on a design, take time to brainstorm ideas for how you want to use your new deck. Consider which features will be most important for your needs, as well as other items on your wish list. Does your active family constantly occupy the backyard? Or are you just looking for a peaceful spot to relax with a morning coffee? Will you throw large, festive parties, or small family gatherings? A dining area makes sense if you often eat and entertain outside, and perhaps an outdoor fireplace or heating element will be essential for extending time outdoors into the cooler months. As you plan, keep in mind which conveniences will be appropriate. Electrical outlets, for example, make it easy to add or move outdoor lighting, hook up a sound system, or power a laptop or tablet. Once you have a list of desired features, rank them. Prioritizing your dream deck objectives can help during the budget process.

Create a Portfolio

Clip deck pictures and design ideas from magazines, newspapers, catalogs, and online to illustrate the style and details you desire. Include deck designs, materials, colors, and configurations that appeal to you.

Determine a Budget


Whatever your needs, balance them against the budgetary bottom line. Remember to keep your form and function planning in touch with your financial situation. Overruns might increase project costs by as much as 30 percent, depending on unforeseen circumstances. Be open to that reality, and control costs by staying true to the original scope of the project.

When a roadblock presents itself, turn it into an opportunity to compromise and stay within your budget. For example; if built-in seating crosses the budget line, opt for weatherproof wicker seating that can be moved, rearranged, and updated easily.

Find Design Pros


A well-planned deck should be a natural extension of your home, complementing its form, style, and color. A professional can create a space that meets your needs by advising on the best materials, layout, and location for your deck plans.

If the cost of hiring a designer seems prohibitive, consider that professionals can help save on overall costs by contributing to the efficiency of the project, managing workflow, and helping to avoid expensive mistakes -- and many are willing to work for an hourly fee.

Whether you hire an architect, a landscape architect, or a general contractor, a well-versed design professional is an essential aspect to planning and building your dream deck. Use your portfolio to explain your design aesthetic and project goals to your designer.

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